"Turn the Beat Around" is a disco song written by Gerald Jackson and Peter Jackson and performed by Vicki Sue Robinson in 1976 (see 1976 in music), originally appearing on her debut album, Never Gonna Let You Go. Released as a single, the song went to #10 on the Billboard pop charts, and #73 on the soul chart. The song earned Robinson a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The track went to number one on the disco chart for four weeks. "Turn the Beat Around" is considered a disco classic and is featured on many compilation albums.
"Turn the Beat Around" was written by brothers Gerald and Peter Jackson of the R&B outfit Touch of Class. Peter Jackson knew Al Garrison, an engineer at Associated Studios in New York, via his [i.e. Peter Jackson's] work as a session drummer, and it was at Associated Studios that Touch of Class cut its own demos. Peter Jackson recalls that one Sunday at noontime "I called Al and said...we want to come in and [cut a] demo...He was leaving at four...He said: 'My girl[friend]’s coming to pick me up for dinner. You have to be done [by then]."
Garrison's girlfriend turned out to be singer Vicki Sue Robinson whose debut album was nearing completion requiring one additional track. On arriving at Associated Studios that Sunday, Robinson overheard the playback of the "Turn the Beat Around" demo which Touch of Class had just recorded and according to Peter Jackson said: "Oh, man, I’ve gotta have that song." Gerald and Peter Jackson initially demurred, wishing to submit "Turn the Beat Around" along with four earlier demos to be green-lighted for the Touch of Class debut album.
Peter Jackson - "Monday [the next day], Gerald and I go up to Midland [Touch of Class' label]. We’re excited because we know this song ["Turn the Beat Around"] is slammin’...[Midland] took the other four songs and they passed on that one. They said: 'We don't like that one. The lyrics move too fast. You have that jungle beat in there. It's not what's happening'." Peter Jackson resultantly called Vicki Sue Robinson to give her the song for her album. When Jackson told Robinson: "'I'll meet you down on Thirty-Fourth Street [with the demo]' she said: 'I [already] made Al give me a copy.'"
Robinson recorded "Turn the Beat Around" on September 26, 1975, cutting her lead vocal in a single take after recording her own multi-tracked chorale vocals. Like the other cuts on Robinson's debut album Never Gonna Let You Go, "Turn the Beat Around" was recorded at RCA Studios with producer Warren Schatz who recalls the basic master of the song was recorded "on a Friday after a very depressing week of rain [and] I hated [the track]! I listened to it in my office and I just couldn't get it. It had been such a bad week that I just couldn't hear anything with an open mind. Then David Todd, the head of disco promotion at RCA, came into my office and he went crazy over the track! He convinced me to finish it as soon as possible."
Issued as a single in February 1976 "Turn the Beat Around" became a club smash subsequently breaking on Top 40 radio in Boston - where it would reach #1 that June - to make a gradual ascent on the national Pop chart: the Billboard Hot 100 to reach a #10 peak in August 1976.
Laura Branigan covered the song in 1990, becoming the first major artist to do so. It was released as the third and final single from her self-titled sixth studio album, however only to radio and clubs. The song was co-produced by Branigan and Steve Lindsey for the album, with several remix versions following garnering significant play in Hi-NRG clubs.
In 1994 (see 1994 in music), the song was recorded by American singer and songwriter Gloria Estefan for the soundtrack to the film The Specialist. It is also featured on Estefan's fourth solo album, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Released as a single, it became a hit reaching number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Estefan also took the song to the top spot on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart, making it her first number-one song on that chart in English. In Australia and New Zealand the song charted at number 8 and 18. In Europe, the song peaked at number 21 in the United Kingdom, number 24 in Scotland, number 27 in the Netherlands and number 29 in Belgium. Estefan performed the song as her opening performance in VH1's first ever Divas Live. In 2018, Australian music channel Max placed Estefan's "Turn the Beat Around" at number 924 in their list of "1000 Greatest Songs of All Time".
AllMusic editor Eddie Huffman described the song as a "brilliant pop hit" in his review of Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Maryann Scheufele from AXS noted that "this song is a sound that moved girls to dance like Gloria Estefan. She was a leader in the freedom of movement otherwise known as Latino style."Larry Flick from Billboard wrote that Estefan "has not delivered a pop single with this much verve and energy in a long while. The groove is reminiscent of her own classic "Conga", and it is wrapped in delicious layers of live strings and horns. An inspired pairing of song and artist that will likely spark heavy top 40 and club activity." Pip Ellwood-Hughes from Entertainment Focus described it as a "raucous dance number". Josef Woodard from Entertainment Weekly said that Estefan's "easygoing charms still do the trick" on the song. Joey Guerra from Houston Chronicle called it "a pulsing rendition". Jeremy Griffin from The Ithacan described it as a "rousing cover".Music & Media commented that Estefan "revives her Miami Sound Machine days of fatback disco by covering an old Vicki Sue Robinson song."The Network Forty complimented the song as a "classic remake" of the "1976 Top 10 gem" and added that it has "uptempo flavor spiced with trademark Miami Sound Machine overtones".People Magazine called it "an exuberant run" through Vicki Sue Robinson's disco classic and noted that the song "demand repeated listens."